5 Occasions when you really should read the small print

The world is full of small print and terms and conditions. They ping up when you update your apps and they’re on the back of your bank statements. I bet there are many times when you just don’t read the details and simply accept the terms – they’re just stopping you from doing what you went online to do anyway, right?? Nonetheless, there are some terms and conditions that you simply must read before diving in head first, so here are a few key times when you should check the details… 

1. WHEN BORROWING MONEY

Whether it’s a credit card, an bank overdraft, a car loan, catalogue account or loan, reading through the small print of any monetary contract is essential. It’ll give you a clear idea of the rates and fees associated with the borrowing process, and can prevent any surprises in the future. If you know in advance exactly what you’ll be paying to borrow the sum you need, it’ll allow you to calculate the total value so you can decide for yourself whether you’re willing to pay the interest, or whether you’d be better off saving up and buying later instead. Plus, knowing that you’ll incur fees if you pay late might motivate you to ensure that your repayments are always on time!

2. YOUR WORK CONTRACT

This is a contract that it’s easy to overlook. After all, you’re so happy that you got the job that you’ll sign anything! But this small print makes an interesting read as it’ll tell you everything you can expect from your employer during your time with the company. It’s worth reading through the terms of your employment if only to find out how much annual leave you’re going to get! But it’s also important to find out about the terms of any pension contributions (and how to opt out if you want to), working hours and overtime rates, and any trial periods, performance reviews or targets that you’ll need to work towards. Don’t worry if there’s something you’re not happy about in the contract, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to take the job. Simply talk to HR or your line manager and get any issues clarified and smoothed out before you start.

3. THE BIG ONE – YOUR MORTGAGE

The small print of a mortgage is pages and pages long, but that’s not just a coincidence – all that information is there for a reason: it’s because you need to know it. Studying the terms and conditions of your mortgage can show up fees that might be associated with processing your mortgage, and can give you a clear idea of how your repayments may change in the future in line with interest rates. You may think that paying off extra chunks of your mortgage when you’ve got some spare cash or repaying the full value before the end of the borrowing term would be a good idea, but this can result in early repayment fees. The small print will highlight any penalties, along with what you can and can’t do in terms of making repayments.

4. TAKING OUT A CONTRACT

I don’t just mean a contract for your mobile phone (although that can a have rather ouchy penalty if you want to upgrade!) – I’m talking about any type of on-going payment contract. Most utility or telecommunications providers will ask you to sign up for a period of time and there may be fees to pay if you want to get out of the contract early. Before getting locked into an 18 month (or longer!) contract, have a read through all the small print to ensure that the deal you’re getting today will still be the same great deal in a year or two’s time. This goes for mobile phones, landlines, broadband, entertainment services, water, electricity and gas suppliers, service contracts and anything else you’re planning to sign up to for an extended period of time.

5. INSURANCES

If you’re taking out an insurance policy, you obviously have something that you want to protect. Whether it’s your home, car, telephone, holiday, boiler, laptop (or anything else you can think of) before you start an insurance contract, you’ll need to read the small print. Again, this can be a whole booklet to get through, but it’s important to know what’s covered and what isn’t covered. That way you can be confident that the insurance premium you’re paying actually does protect you and will come in useful when you need it. I’ve had insurance policies in the past where the one thing I needed help with at the time was the one thing that wasn’t insured. Typical! And bloomin’ annoying.

I hope this blog post will inspire you to have a read through the small print in the future and take your time to make sure that everything is as it should be before you decide to proceed with a contract, job or policy. Let me know your own stories of times when you were pleased that you read a contract in the comments below.

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in lifestyle promotion studies. She loves to 'get the look for less' so regularly shares thrifty fashion posts, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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